Faust in Puppet Theatre in Slovakia

Johannes Faust is not only the best known, but also the most popular play performed by nearly all travelling folk puppeteers from the 17th till the 19th century

By The Theatre Institute

Photograph of the brothers Nosálek posing in front of their theatre (1900/1910) by unknownThe Theatre Institute

Faust and the travelling puppeteers

 From among the Slovak travelling puppeteers, Faust was in the repertory of the families Stražan, Dubský, Anderle, ...

...  and Nosálek.

The stories about Faust were performed using marionettes.
A comic character – a servant called the Little Fool – was always part of the story.

Bilingual poster for the production of Dr. Faust by puppeteer Ján Stražan, Ján Párička, 1910/1920, From the collection of: The Theatre Institute
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Handmade poster for Pavel Nosálek's Dr. Faust, Alexander Nosálek, 1900/1910, From the collection of: The Theatre Institute
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The puppeteers invited people to see their performances using printed or hand-painted posters.

Theatre texts about Faust from the book Comedians – Nomads – Puppeteers (2006) by Ida Hledíková-PolívkováThe Theatre Institute

Each family adapted the story of Johannes Faust in their own way. That particular version of the story would then be used by the subsequent generations. The texts varied in their length, sequence of scenes, and even the number of characters.

Family puppet theatre (1918) by Rudolf LivoraThe Theatre Institute

Family puppet theatres

The story of Faust was included in the repertory of so-called family puppet theatres that emerged on the Czech and Slovak territories in early 20th century.

Serially produced family puppet theatre using the design by Rudolf Livora (early 20th century). 

Production bulletin, Kamil Bednář: Johannes Doctor Faust (1979) by Jana Pogorielová, Libuša LopejskáThe Theatre Institute

Faust in Slovak professional puppet theatres

Professional puppet theatremakers also felt attracted by the Faust story. The first to tackle the challenge were artists from the Košice Puppet Theatre in 1979. They worked with the funny play by Kamil Bednář Johannes Doctor Faust, written in verse and re-telling a folk tale preserved in Czech poetic art.

Visual design of the marionette of Faust, Kamil Bednář: Johannes Doctor Faust, Jana Pogorielová, 1979, From the collection of: The Theatre Institute
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Visual design of the marionette of Hellish Beauty, Kamil Bednář: Johannes Doctor Faust, Jana Pogorielová, 1979, From the collection of: The Theatre Institute
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Eminent Slovak puppet artist Jana Pogorielová created the visual design of the production.

Marionette of Faust, Kamil Bednář: Johannes Doctor Faust (1979) by Jana PogorielováThe Theatre Institute

Kamil Bednář: Johannes Doctor Faust

Marionette of Faust.

Marionette of the Devil, Kamil Bednář: Johannes Doctor Faust (1979) by Jana PogorielováThe Theatre Institute

Kamil Bednář: Johannes Doctor Faust

Marionette of the Devil.

Marionette of the Raven, Kamil Bednář: Johannes Doctor Faust (1979) by Jana PogorielováThe Theatre Institute

Kamil Bednář: Johannes Doctor Faust

Marionette of the Raven.

Production photograph 1, Kamil Bednář: Johannes Doctor Faust (1979) by Mária Pružinská LitawskáThe Theatre Institute

Kamil Bednář: Johannes Doctor Faust

Director Bedřich Svatoň placed the story in an Art Nouveau castle, where the people at the court decided to play a mediaeval legend.

Production photograph 2, Kamil Bednář: Johannes Doctor Faust (1979) by Mária Pružinská LitawskáThe Theatre Institute

Kamil Bednář: Johannes Doctor Faust

It was a play about a play – on the puppet level, it was the story of Faust, while on the level of live acting, it was about presenting the well-known drama.

Production catalogue, Iveta Škripková: Johannes Doctor Faust, or the Bride from Hell (1992) by Jozef Lomnický, Iveta ŠkripkováThe Theatre Institute

I. Škripková: Johannes Doctor Faust, or the Bride from Hell

The second production of Faust made by a professional puppet theatre was the half-romantic, half-magical fairy story based on the texts by old Czech puppeteers. A play in five acts and three interludes, titled Johannes Doctor Faust, or the Bride from Hell was produced by the Puppet Theatre on the Crossroads in the 1992–1993 season.

Production photograph 1, Iveta Škripková: Johannes Doctor Faust, or the Bride from Hell (1992) by René MikoThe Theatre Institute

Author Iveta Škripková wrote the script based on the historical texts, but she consciously drew away from them. 

Production photograph 2, Iveta Škripková: Johannes Doctor Faust, or the Bride from Hell (1992) by Jozef LomnickýThe Theatre Institute

She changed the main conflict, the struggle between two forces – heaven and hell – into a relationship between a man and a woman.

Production photograph 3, Iveta Škripková: Johannes Doctor Faust, or the Bride from Hell (1992) by Jozef LomnickýThe Theatre Institute

It was a woman who was both the temptress and Mephistopheles.

Marionette of Faust, Iveta Škripková: Johannes Doctor Faust, or the Bride from Hell, unknown, 19th Century, From the collection of: The Theatre Institute
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Marionette of the King, Iveta Škripková: Johannes Doctor Faust, or the Bride from Hell, J. Anderle, 19th Century, From the collection of: The Theatre Institute
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Marionette of Mephistopheles, Iveta Škripková: Johannes Doctor Faust, or the Bride from Hell, J. Anderle, 1930/1940, From the collection of: The Theatre Institute
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Faust was presented in Banská Bystrica using the precious, century-old marionettes which were originally owned by the Stražan-Anderle families of travelling puppeteers. The marionettes were lent to the theatre by the Literary Museum of the Slovak National Library in Martin.

Production bulletin, Marlowe – Goethe – Gontko – Spišák: Faust (1995) by Ivan HudákThe Theatre Institute

Marlowe – Goethe – Gontko – Spišák: Faust

The 1995 production of Faust in the Old Theatre in Nitra did not base its staging on the texts for the puppet theatre production, but it relied on the work of Johann Wolfgang Goethe and Christopher Marlowe.

Production photograph 1, Marlowe – Goethe – Gontko – Spišák: Faust (1995) by Matúš OľhaThe Theatre Institute

Director Ondrej Spišák staged the Faustian story in an unconventional production. 

Production photograph 2, Marlowe – Goethe – Gontko – Spišák: Faust (1995) by Matúš OľhaThe Theatre Institute

Young Faust, who craves knowledge, signs a deal with the Devil and experiences the hell of drug addiction.

Production photograph 3, Marlowe – Goethe – Gontko – Spišák: Faust (1995) by Matúš OľhaThe Theatre Institute

The production was intended for teenagers. 

Production photograph 3, Gejza Dezorz: The Mischievous Ways of the Fool (2010) by Július DúbravayThe Theatre Institute

Gejza Dezorz: The Mischievous Ways of the Fool

In the production titled The Mischievous Ways of the Fool, or the Erotic Adventures of Bob de Niro, the artists from the Dezorz's Puppet Theatre were loosely inspired by the Faustian story. Thematically and formally, the production linked the traditional with the modern,  the high with the low.

Production photograph 1, Gejza Dezorz: The Mischievous Ways of the Fool (2010) by Július DúbravayThe Theatre Institute

It confirmed the theatre’s inclination to multiculturalism as well as the tendency to mix subculture elements with themes from classical literature. 

Production photograph 2, Gejza Dezorz: The Mischievous Ways of the Fool (2010) by Július DúbravayThe Theatre Institute

In the production, references to traditional travelling puppeteers were connected with modern technologies, or allusions to popular culture and current consumer lifestyle.

Production poster, Gejza Dezorz: Johannes Faust (2011) by Von DubravayThe Theatre Institute

Gejza Dezorz: Johannes Faust

Since 2011, Dezorz's Puppet Theatre has performed several titles of the traditional repertory of travelling puppeteers as part of the Slovak Marionette Theatre project, including Johannes Faust.

Production photograph 1, Gejza Dezorz: Johannes Faust (2011) by Jozef PáleníkThe Theatre Institute

The witty and humorous play Johannes Faust about the limits of human knowledge is unique for the appeal if the puppeteering performance – there is magic, fire, and the terrifying amusement of the little devils who take Faust to hell.

Production photograph 2, Gejza Dezorz: Johannes Faust (2011) by Jozef PáleníkThe Theatre Institute

Production photograph 3, Gejza Dezorz: Johannes Faust (2011) by Jozef PáleníkThe Theatre Institute

Take a moment to watch a sample of the production Johannes Faust. It symbolically summarizes the production tradition of staging Faust in puppet theatres in Slovakia from travelling puppeteers of the 19th century to current puppet theatre.

Credits: Story

Authors: Barbora Krajč Zamišková, Dominika Zaťková 
Slovak proofreading: Mária Kvaššayová 
English translation: Ivan Lacko 
Editor: Vladislava Fekete 
Production: Marko Popović 
In cooperation with: Dezorz Puppet Theatre, Juraj Hamar


The Theatre Institute has made all possible efforts to identify the authors of the graphic or photographic works used in this publication, as well as to obtain legal permission for their use. If you are the holder of the rights to any of the works used herein, please contact the Theatre Institute: du@theatre.sk. 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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